Explainer: Solicitor v Barrister
This explainer is about the difference between a solicitor and a barrister and is designed for students.
It has relevance in Australia, the United Kingdom, and a number of Commonwealth jurisdictions. If you are interested in the United States legal system and their lawyers you can learn more about it here.
Lawyers in Australia
All Lawyers in Australia need to have completed undergraduate or postgraduate tertiary study. Followed by practical or supervised legal training before they can be admitted as a lawyer in their home state. Once they are admitted they are qualified as a solicitor and can practice as a lawyer in any Australian jurisdiction.
Watch this video about what a lawyer does in Australia.
What work does a Solicitor do?
Solicitors do a wide variety of legal work. Examples include;
- Property transactions such as conveyancing
- Representing people charged with criminal offences in lower courts
- Business deals and contracts
- Provide legal advice
- Prepare legal files and cases for barristers – this is called briefing
Solicitor Advocates are solicitors who have undergone additional training in court advocacy. They often appear as prosecutors in courts in New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria.
What work does a Barrister do?
Barristers are admitted lawyers that complete additional study and successfully complete a Bar exam followed by 12 months as a ‘reader’, where they learn court advocacy skills under the tutelage of a more experienced barrister. Most barristers have spent some time working as a solicitor prior to becoming a barrister.
Barristers are known as ‘juniors’ or ‘silks’. Junior barristers have not achieved the accolade of being made a senior counsel (SC) or Queen’s counsel (QC), this is called ‘taking silk’.
The NSW Bar Association describes the work of a Barrister as:
Barristers are independent, specialist advocates who are trained to appear in a courtroom, in commissions of inquiry and in alternative forms of dispute resolution
Barristers are self-employed and can be found in Chambers these are collections of offices where barristers share resources such as office staff, the work of a clerk and other office functions.
Most commonly people will not deal with a barrister directly as barristers are briefed by a person’s solicitor to act on behalf of their client in court, mediate a dispute or provide specialist legal advice.
Clients hire solicitors to help them deal with their legal messes and solicitors hire barristers to help them deal with their legal problems.